ROME – After their founder’s removal last month due to problems of governance, an Italian monastery has issued a public apology for the scandal created by the episode, offering a timeline of the events which led to their leader’s exile.
In a statement, the Bose Monastery in northern Italy voiced gratitude to those who have stayed close to them as the conflict with their founder was made public, and asked “forgiveness for the scandal that we have given rise to and for the counter-testimony that we have given.”
They said they had not yet spoken publicly about the issue, “so as not to further hurt anyone and to be able to say a word of peace and clarity,” but are aware of their “responsibility of giving an account both of the hope that inhabits us and of the scandal that we have provoked in so many Christians and persons who follow us.”
“So that (our) gratitude and this request for pardon do not sound like empty rhetoric, we would like to help you and help each other to understand in depth both the suffering that we are going through and of which we have made you participate as well as the hopes that we nourish for the way ahead,” they said, and gave a timeline of events that led to founder Enzo Bianchi’s removal.
The Bose Monastery is a monastic community of men and women who belong to different Christian churches, but who live a common life of prayer, poverty, celibacy, and obedience to the Gospel.
In May the Vatican removed the founder, Italian layman Enzo Bianchi, from the Bose Monastery in northern Italy, marking the latest move in the Vatican’s crackdown in recent years on a swath of founders and leaders of movements and communities accused of sexual, financial or psychological misconduct, including the abuses of power and authority.
Bianchi, 77, founded the community in the 1960s and stepped down as its leader in 2017. The community was canonically approved in 2000, and enjoyed the favor of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
In 2003, Bianchi was tapped by John Paul II be part of the delegation that returned the celebrated icon of Our Lady of Kazan to the patriarch of Moscow in his capacity as a member of the executive board of the Catholic Committee for the Cultural Cooperation of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Bianchi attended high-profile Vatican meetings in 2008 and in 2012, and in 2018 Pope Francis named him a consultor of the Vatican’s office for Christian Unity.
However, the Vatican in December 2019 launched an investigation into the community after what a previous statement defined as, “a series of concerns from the Holy See that indicated a tense situation and problems concerning the exercise of authority by the founder, governance issues and the fraternal climate in the community.”
As a result of that investigation, Bianchi and two brothers and one sister at the Bose Monastery were asked to move out of the community and cease their functions within it.
According to a previous statement from Bose, there was a delay in making the news public because some of those involved had refused to accept the directive. Problems allegedly arose after the Bianchi stepped down, with the new leader, Brother Luciano, unable to govern while Bianchi was still around.
In their most recent statement, dated June 19, the Bose Monastery said the Vatican’s apostolic visit of the community was initiated due to “various reports about profound suffering in the fraternal life in Bose and after having verified that this was true.”
The community insisted that they accepted the visit “in obedience,” and as a sign of Pope Francis’s “paternal attention” to their situation and to finding the causes of “a grave unease regarding the exercise of authority, the handling of governance, and the fraternal climate in Bose.
Two members of the team carrying out the apostolic visit, they said, had taken part in a previous visit of the community in 2014. At the time, the monastery said, Bianchi had called an abbot and an abbess whom he trusted “because he considered them the persons best suited to favor a fruitful community procedure towards the change of prior.”
Stressing that this was a “fraternal visit” in which advice and suggestions could be made, but no concrete intervention, the community said that “some critical points emerged” as the result of the 2014 visit opposing the change of prior, but that those did not impede the events that led to Bianchi’s resignation in 2017 and the election of his successor.
Between December 2019 and the Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, the visitation took place, with the Vatican-appointed team listened “at length and more than once” to the brothers and sisters living in the Bose monastery, and those in other community houses.
A final report was submitted to the Vatican at the close of the visitation. That report, the community said, was evaluated for four months before a decree was issued directing the removal of Bianchi and three others.
The community stressed that while an administrator was named to implement the Vatican’s directives, their prior was not removed, but has been supported in his role of “presiding over the Community’s unity,” which had been “seriously compromised, seeing the profound daily suffering, discouragement, and lack of incentive in many brothers and sisters.”
They also clarified that Bianchi and the other members who were removed were not expelled from the community but are undergoing a “temporary removal” and remain full members of the community, and they maintain their faculties to continue to exercising their ministry.
The rest of the community was ordered to spend the coming years developing their founding charism.
They stressed the need to look at their internal crisis through the eyes of faith, rather than casting blame, insisting that “we are no better.” The phrase was coined by Bianchi at the community’s foundations and often repeated by him.
“In this painful situation of our history we seek to continue daily in our life of prayer, of work, and of hospitality,” they said, insisting that they are striving to move forward in this, “in spite of having to take into account the consequences of the pandemic and the remodeling of the Community after the results of the visit.”
“We can do this only by invoking the Lord’s mercy and pardon, which passes through the pardon that we will be able to offer to each other,” they said, and asked for prayer.
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